COVID-19

Filipino Muslim leaders endorse COVID-19 vaccines, quell halal fears

Paterno Esmaquel II
Filipino Muslim leaders endorse COVID-19 vaccines, quell halal fears

COVID-19 VACCINE. A medical worker fills a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, at the CHIREC Delta Hospital in Brussels, Belgium, on February 3, 2021.

File photo by Yves Herman/Reuters

'Any substance that will effectively and safely protect people is considered halal, especially if it is the only viable option at present,' says Saidamen Pangarungan, secretary of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos

Filipino Muslim leaders on Thursday, February 4, supported the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and quelled fears that these might contain pork products that they do not consider halal (permissible).

“Any substance that will effectively and safely protect people is considered halal, especially if it is the only viable option at present,” said Saidamen Pangarungan, secretary of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, in a statement signed by 7 other Islamic leaders.

Pangarungan noted, on one hand, that halal certifying bodies or HCBs in the Philippines have not examined these COVID-19 vaccines.

He said Muslim leaders in the United Kingdom, on the other hand, have issued a favorable fatwa or ruling on these. This fatwa, according to him, states: “The UK government has confirmed that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine does not contain any components of animal origin.”

Pangarungan said Pfizer also claims “that all of their vaccine’s components are either plant-based or are synthetic.” Like Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna “have also stated that their vaccines do not use gelatin or pork products.”

In neighboring Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, Muslim leaders recently certified the Chinese vaccine CoronaVac, too, as halal.

IN INDONESIA. President Joko Widodo receives the second dose of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, on January 27, 2021.
File photo courtesy of Indonesia’s Presidential Palace/Muchlis Jr/Reuters

“Due to the pressing need to curb the spread of COVID-19, all Filipinos are urged to avail of the vaccine once they become available in the country,” Pangarungan said, adding that “Islam emphasizes the need to protect life.”

Whether COVID-19 vaccines are halal has worried many Muslims around the world, as pork-derived gelatin is commonly used in producing vaccines. Muslim beliefs prohibit the consumption of pork.

More than 6 million Muslims live in the Philippines, making up around 6% of this predominantly Christian country.

The Philippine government has sought the help of religious groups to convince Filipinos to take vaccine shots after a recent Pulse Asia survey showed 47% of Filipinos refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Experts have attributed this to widespread disinformation online. – Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.